(click any pic to enlarge and sharpen)
Note: This is the ongoing saga of our trip to Red River, New Mexico in early July. We’re almost finished now.
Since he had slept through several of our activities and was left out of our hike earlier in the week, we decided it was time to focus on Ben.
Each time we drove by Mike’s Fun Place during our time in Red River, Ben’s head turned to keep his eyes on all the action. When we walked by, he got a good look at the rock climbing wall, the jumping machine, and the mechanical bull. He mentioned the jumping more than once, and my dad got a twinkle in his eye when the manager said little kids could ride the bull.
All that set the stage for our final morning in Red River.
Sounds and smells of motorized scooters and tiny three-wheeled cars (with training wheels) filled the air at Mike’s Fun Place. Mike is a former bull rider who uses his 20 years of experience and his hydraulic controls to throw even the most talented rodeo professionals.
When he’s not directing departing scooter renters away from oncoming SUV’s.
When Ben got his turn at the jumping machine, I presented my token — a wooden buffalo nickel. Ben scrambled up onto a trampoline stretched over an inflated base. He listened intently to instructions from a gaunt man with a scraggly gray beard. The man strapped him into a body harness and instructed him to “Start jumping when I tell you.” A system of pulleys and elastic cords held Ben steady.
Graybeard then pressed a button that lifted Ben up so that just the balls of his feet touched the trampoline surface. “Okay, go,” Graybeard said. “Jump.”
Ben tried his best, but lacked either the strength or the ryhthm to launch himself high off the surface. Graybeard worked the controls to lift Ben a few feet up, then let him drop back to his feet. Ben smiled between bouts of concentration as the process repeated. His legs buckled a few times, but he never fell.
Graybeard left him suspended a few inches off the trampoline and lifted Ben’s feet as he pushed back on his forehead. Ben spun backwards 360 degrees and came to a clumsy standing halt. He smiled.
“Time’s up,” Graybeard said. The three minutes had flown by. Considering the eight bucks I spent on the token, anything less than 10 minutes would have seemed short.
“I wanna jump again!” Ben said.
“It’s somebody else’s turn now,” I said. “Come over here, Ben.”
As Dad waited in line for Ben’s bull ride token and waiver form, Shannon, Mom, Ben, and I sat at a table shaded by a striped red and white tent. Ben played on the padded area surrounding a resting mechanical bull.
Mike stepped away from starting a scooter. “Got one to ride the bull?”
“Yes,” I said. “We’re getting his token right now. Um, you don’t try to throw the little kids, do you?”
“No, no, it’s just a fun ride for them, unless they jump off.”
Mike walked over to Ben. He pointed at the bull. “This is Pepe. You ready to ride?”
“Yes!” Ben said.
Mike lifted Ben onto the bull’s rudimentary leather saddle. “Now, hold on right here,” he said, pointing at a spot on the bull’s back. Ben wrapped the fingers of both hands around what I guessed was a rope or a strap.
Pepe lurched. Startled surprise flashed across Ben’s face. The bull tilted downward. Ben matched it by tilting backward.
“Hold your arm up!” Shannon directed in an effort to make him look like a bull rider.
Ben took one hand loose and raised it high.
Into the perfect parade float wave.
There, sitting atop a slowly raging robotic beast, he waved and shot a toothy grin in perfect imitation of Donny Osmond in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (except less Mormon-y). That went on for at least a minute.
He listed to one side enough for Mike to stop the ride and help him sit straight up again. Though his expression changed from beaming at the crowd to furrowing his brow, he enjoyed the rest of the ride and asked to go again.
We shot video of this, but that’s the part of this post I didn’t get done before my business trip this week. Maybe I’ll share it later.
Next Up: Why I’m recommending the motel we used on the way home change its name to “Worst Western.” Plus, we visit one of the best-known, if not most critically acclaimed, pieces of outdoor artwork in the United States.